KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 11 — The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) participating countries (RPCs) have concluded negotiations on the world’s largest free trade agreement (FTA), paving the way for the signing of the long-awaited trade deal on Nov 15.
The agreement is set to be signed this Sunday, said Senior Minister cum International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali.
He said Malaysia is ready for the agreement signing, having received the mandate from the Cabinet for the implementation of the trade deal.
The government has carried out engagements on the RCEP with domestic stakeholders, state governments and the Cabinet.
“This morning I attended the final Ministerial level meeting for the RCEP agreement that was also attended by 14 other Ministers, including Ministers from the ASEAN FTA partners.
“As we all know, the history of RCEP negotiations, which has been ongoing for the past eight years, has been a long and arduous journey but finally we are at the finishing line,” he told a press conference here, today.
Mohamed Azmin said the agreement would enhance regional economic integration with a vast array of multiplier effects.
“This would include, for example, having a customer base close to one-third of the world’s population, which would mean greater market access for our businesses and traders.
“We would also be able to see the ease of non-tariff measures including harmonisation of rules and standards related to trade that would facilitate cross-border trade within the region,” he added.
He also strongly believed that the RCEP would be able to attract even greater investments that will benefit the region as a whole.
“Malaysia is also confident that RCEP can be used as one of the economic recovery tools against COVID-19. The implementation of this agreement will help to ensure the opening of markets as well as an uninterrupted supply chain.”
Mohamed Azmin noted that this was in line with the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework (ACRF), as one of the broad strategies under ‘Maximising the Potential of Intra-ASEAN Market and Broader Integration.’
“During this difficult time, I believe it is imperative that we act in solidarity and collectively in order for the ACRF to materialise,” he said.
Mohamed Azmin said the agreement would further demonstrate ASEAN’s centrality in shaping the global trade agenda.
Hence, he said, it was imperative that all RPCs endorse the interim Joint Committee to ensure the smooth and swift implementation of the agreement.
“As RCEP is such an important agreement for ASEAN, the signing will be a testament to the world to our efforts in strengthening not only the multilateral trading system but subsequently upholding the development agenda in the World Trade Organisation.
“It will also demonstrate to the world that the region together with the ASEAN FTA partners say no to protectionism, and yes to free trade,” he said.
Mohamed Azmin said the signing will also send a positive signal to the world that Malaysia and the other RCEP countries have chosen to open their markets instead of resorting to protectionist measures during this difficult time.
“This is also consistent with the business support measures announced in Malaysia’s Budget 2021. No doubt, RPCs will be able to ride on the economic value chains that will be generated with this agreement,” he added.